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Sara Skolaski

Sara's Video I discovered my breast cancer through a self-breast examination. When I first had an ultrasound, I was so sure that everything was fine until the doctor said,Read More...
“I’m quite sure this is cancer we’re dealing with here.” At that moment, I knew that my life would be forever changed! I received four rounds of chemo for Stage I Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.  This journey has brought about many positive things in my life. I have a much deeper relationship with the Lord. I wake up each day feeling grateful for the day that God has provided me with. I also wake up thankful to have a body that is healthy enough to enjoy all of the activities that I love so much!  I actually have an Instagram account where I’ve tried to document some of my journey with breast cancer. I have continued to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle through diagnosis, surgery, recovery and chemo. I want this page to offer others going through the same scenario a bit of reassurance that they can still get through it and participate in life! I also want to remind women to not brush off self-breast examinations. They aren’t something that just older women should do each month. Even young girls should start to be aware of their breast tissue, so that if something ever changes, they’ll know when it changed.” 

Natalie Leas

I discovered a lump while breast-feeding my little girl. My husband and I knew that something was wrong, despite my doctor saying that it was probably a milk duct or a cyst. Read More...
We decided to get a second opinion, and that doctor said that I needed to do an ultrasound right away. Sure enough, it turned out that I had stage 2 Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, and that I also have the BRCA2 gene.  The one person who pushed me to move forward and held me up was my amazing husband. He saw my weakest moments and still made me feel like a beautiful, strong woman. Halfway through my treatment, he went to school for his Doctorate program, and despite his schooling he still made sure he was there for me. He may not have had cancer, but he was also a fighter and my hero.  Even though cancer takes things away and gives you horrible things, it can also provide you with good things. Because of cancer, I made life-long friends. I see life as more precious and valuable. My family is stronger. And finally, I have seen God’s strength.

Aggie Margenthal

Aggie was just 41-years-old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2002. She had been having routine mammograms since she was 30. You see, Aggie’s mom had breast cancer when she was 40. Read More...
Aggie wanted to be pro-active and catch any potential problems early. Eventually, tests detected a growth which her doctor suspected was benign. Aggie’s gut told her it wasn’t. She went to see a specialist who also told her she was 99-percent positive it was not cancer. Still, she demanded a biopsy. The result was positive. She was stunned, but not surprised. Her first child was just a 18 months. Aggie elected to have a lumpectomy. It was an aggressive cancer, invading her lymph nodes–Stage 2A. Three weeks after surgery, she started chemotherapy followed by radiation. It was a long year! Nearly a decade later, doctors diagnosed Aggie with a new breast cancer. This time, it was non-invasive. She opted for a double mastectomy. No further treatment needed. Both times, she had the best group of friends, neighbors, co-workers, family and a wonderful husband supporting me every step of the way. Cancer has made Aggie live life to the fullest. She describes the disease as a wake-up call, reminding her just how precious life is. She refuses to allow cancer to define her. Her message to all of you is, “Remember to always listen to your inner voice. It saved my life.” 
Melissa Shrader

Melissa Shrader

Missi’s abnormal mammogram was the first sign that something was wrong. A biopsy eventually confirmed she had Stage 1 invasive breast cancer. That was January of 2014. Read More...

After the disbelief wore off, courage set in. She admits to shedding many tears on the shoulder of her husband Darin and is grateful for her extended family of co-workers are State Farm for their support. Missi was surrounded by continued prayers and support. She received hundreds of cards and gifts from friends, family and co-workers. Missi’s entire department wore pink the day of her first surgery. It was remarkable! Following multiple surgeries, the woman who describes herself as 40ish, continued taking medication to help keep the cancer at bay. Believe it or not, Missi wouldn’t change this journey. She says through the diagnosis she has grown stronger in her faith, established a new network of sister survivors, and began volunteering for a variety of breast health charities including the Bloomington/Normal Race for the Cure. Melissa stresses, “Don’t put off getting your mammogram and if tests are inconclusive, make sure you follow up and have it done again. Take control of your health.” 
Barbara Vlachos

Barbara Vlachos

Barbara was pregnant with the couple’s first son when she and Alex noticed a large lump on her right breast. Barbara was pregnant with the couple’s first son when she and Alex noticed a large lump on her right breast. It was the fall of 2012. Read More...

Since she was pregnant and about to give birth, they assumed, as did the doctors, that the lump was due to lactational changes. She has no family history of breast cancer and was not interested in the complications to nursing that a biopsy could cause. She delivered Niko in November 2012 and nursed him until she became pregnant with a second son in July of 2013. She was seeing a doctor every six months for breast imaging to make sure there were no changes to the lump. Then, in April 2014, at an appointment she was overdue to have, the doctors were rather alarmed at the changes of the lump. A biopsy was immediately taken. Three days later, and less than 30 days from delivering George, she was notified that she indeed had breast cancer and action needed to be taken immediately. It was Stage 2b Invasive ductal carcinoma. The next year included multiple rounds of chemo, radiation and reconstructive surgery–all while caring for a toddler and newborn. Life moved fast. Now, Barbara tries to slow down and live every day to the fullest with her amazing kids and husband. Barbara’s family and friends played a critical role in her journey. She had two boys under the age of two and was working full-time. People brought meals, helped with the kids, and did the housework. She felt like she pretty much delegated out her entire life during that time. Her loved ones made t-shirts and bracelets made that helped pay for some of the expenses Barbara and Alex endured. She really felt like there was a “Team Barbara” doing anything and everything that she needed to help push her through. She is actually grateful that she didn’t have a biopsy the first time she felt the lump because then she wouldn’t have George, her second son! Barbara was induced to deliver George nine days after she found out she had cancer. After a single mastectomy, she continued to nurse him, only stopping once she started chemo. At that point, Barbara says generous local women donated more than 100 ounces of breast milk for George–providing for him what she no longer could. Barbara embraces this quote by author Max Lucado, “Use the gifts I gave you. Don’t try to use a gift you don’t have. Just do the most what you do the best.” Through it all she realized the one thing that she’s best at is loving her sons and the husband she has known since she was 5 years old.
Roopa Foulger

Roopa Foulger

Roopa's husband, Franklin, felt a lump on her right breast and urged her to get it checked out. After consultation with her doctors and a variety of tests she received the stunning diagnosis…Breast Cancer. Read More...

It was Her2+ve and Estrogen +ve. So, she chose a treatment path that included chemotherapy, a right breast lumpectomy and several rounds of radiation. Her most vivid memory of this past year is how peaceful she felt through her chemotherapy treatments Roopa says she experienced enormous support from her family and friends. Her parents flew in from India to take care of them; friends and colleagues helped with errands and cooking. Co-workers held a fundraiser to help purchase a good comfortable wig. Even though her immediate family was thousands of miles away, the support she received from friends and colleagues in central Illinois was so amazing, that she never felt that she missed out on not having her family nearby. Roopa’s advice to others facing a similar diagnosis? Positive thinking–do something, pick up an activity that will motivate you and keep you going.  She would never try to change what happened. Going through the cancer journey helped her see things she would have otherwise been blind to.” Roopa says she learned to “live in the moment.”
Abbie Cochran

Abbie Cochran

Abbie admits she was not performing regular self-exams. After all, she was just in her early 30s. She had her whole life ahead of her. Read More...

Then, she was shaving in the shower one day when she happened to feel the lump. Abbie says she truly believes God intervened that day. Her diagnosis was Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Hearing those words, she says, was the scariest moment of her life. The treatment plan included a Bilateral Mastectomy (on Valentines Day) with reconstruction, six rounds of chemotherapy, 30 radiation treatments and 10 years on Tamoxifen. She remembers vividly what it was life when her friend shaved her head and then stepping out in public for the first time in a wig. On her final day of treatment she says, “I could not stop crying tears of joy. I was so proud of myself and how strong and determined I was to do everything in my power to beat my cancer.” She adds, “My family and friends stayed strong, positive and humorous for me. They know me and know that’s how I like to handle difficult situations. Their attitude was infectious and their belief in me kept pushing me along. They also watched my kids, sent meals and the most ridiculous gifts to put a smile on my face.” She has found many positives in this journey including new friendships, building a stronger marriage and setting new life goals. She’s also learned how important it is to be proactive about your health. “I never thought I would be diagnosed with breast cancer at my age,” she says. “Younger women also need to perform self-breast exams. You are the best advocate for your health.” She like to quote author and speaker Chuck Swindoll, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
Anisha Hughes2

Anisha Hughes

Anisha found a lump during a self-exam. She was familiar with her body and knew that this particular lump felt different. Read More...

It was hard, and in a different place on her breast. She says, “If I hadn’t been doing self-exams, I wouldn’t have followed up.” But, she did follow up with her doctor, Dr Crnkovich, who scheduled Anisha’s very first mammogram. You see, Anisha was only 39 at the time. Screening confirmed invasive breast cancer, Stage 2B. Her treatment included chemo and radiation. Yes, she lost her hair and admits that that was emotionally rough. Fatigue also set in. Otherwise, she felt pretty good. Still, the hair thing…that was pretty big. Anisha says, “I always prided myself on my hair. It was an important part of my identity. Then, when I was faced with cancer, which is scary by itself, I had to deal with the reality of losing my hair. Losing my hair made me feel self-conscious. It took away my confidence, and when I looked in the mirror I saw someone who didn’t look like me anymore.” She admits that it’s still what she often sees when she looks in the mirror. However, thanks to Towonna Wyatt, the salon owner of Kreative Image in Peoria, this breast cancer survivor’s self-esteem is growing stronger. Towanna made her wigs the look just like the hair-dos Anisha used to wear. Anisha says she was blessed to have friends and family with her during treatment: never letting her feel sick, telling her how pretty she is and just listening and showing support. She has relied on her faith, too, trying to keep in mind that this too shall pass.
Brittany Dorf

Brittany Dorf

SURVIVOR STRONG!— Brittany is a 35-year-old wife and mom. Brittany was showering when she noticed a hard spot near her collar bone. Read More...

In Brittany’s mind, it seemed way too high on her chest to be breast cancer but she went to the doctor the next day to have it checked out anyway. She was two months shy of turning 35–the age many doctors encourage their patients to get a baseline mammogram and the age at which her insurance company would cover a screening exam. Brittany was checked by her family physician had her first mammogram.  She had a biopsy and within the week, the diagnosis of Stage I Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, HER2 positive breast cancer. After a few additional MRI’s and biopsies, a handful of smaller spots in the same breast were discovered and also tested positive. This type of cancer is aggressive. So, Brittany’s doctors agreed that they wanted to begin treatment right away. She was soon starting two types of chemo, plus two drug therapies designed to target her specific type of cancer. She wrapped up chemo over the summer and continues to receive the Herceptin treatments every 3 weeks until March 2016. After a bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery, her pet scan came back clear. ZERO signs of cancer! She had always thought that she’d struggle on the day that she would have to shave her head. When you hear that you’ll undergo chemotherapy and it’ll make you lose your hair, as a woman you just cringe. Until last year, I had always had really long hair. The thought of being bald was terrifying. Plus, I wondered if my 2-year old twins would be afraid of me! However, when the day came, the clippers came out and the hair fell to the floor while the kids watched. Then they got bored and wanted a snack. They didn’t care! And oddly enough, neither did I.  For Brittany, it was actually empowering to just let go of that “security blanket”. Once I realized that I could lose the hair without even crying, I knew I was tougher than I gave myself credit for and cancer didn’t stand a chance. That kicked off my “bring it on” attitude for the rest of the journey. Many friends and family members joined in the “hair alteration” fun by dying their hair pink or even shaving it all off, too – including Brittany’s father in law who has had a pony-tail for at least 14 years.  Jason was pretty incredible, too. Brittany ‘s husband took on everything – working full time, caring for me while I was going through all of this, and caring for our rambunctious children who didn’t understand why “Mommy had to rest.” He is her rock. He never once complained. She even had friends and teachers from high school, some of whom I hadn’t seen or talked to in more than 15 years, send gifts, money and cards of encouragement. There was also someone we had never who met sign up to bring us a meal after my surgery. I’m in awe of how many generous people were willing to help us – whether we knew them well, hadn’t spoken in years, or had never met.

Ronda Guyton

2016 Peoria Race for the Cure Chair, Ronda Guyton is a firecracker who is used to a fight. She’s in law enforcement. That’s right, don’t mess with this lady! Read More...

Under the tough exterior, however, is a wife and mom who likes to look great and feel great just like the rest of us.  As Ronda prepared for her 40th birthday in 20012, she decided she wanted breast enhancements. Her doctor recommended a mammogram ahead of the plastic surgery. To her shock and amazement, the screening was abnormal. Still, she didn’t think much of it. She had no family history of the disease. In fact, she didn’t even do regular breast self-exams. Ronda couldn’t move forward with the enhancements without further testing. So, she had an ultrasound and needle biopsy. The results confirmed ductual carcinoma in situ. Although it was caught early, she opted for a double mastectomy, in part, because of her age. She didn’t want to take the chance that she wouldn’t be around to see her youngest son Isaac graduate from high school. After reconstructive surgeries, Ronda was on her way to recovery. Even before surgery, Ronda hosted a Mammogram-A-Thon as a way to encourage others, particularly women of color not to make the same mistake she had–Assuming that she didn’t have anything to worry about, no need for self-exams of breast cancer screening. She took television viewers along for her journey as part of WEEK’s Buddy Check 25 Program. Following surgery, Ronda started volunteering at Komen Memorial, forming #TeamRonda for Race for the Cure and bringing a special group of women together to co-author the book Pink Survivors to benefit the local Komen Affiliate and its ability to make grant dollars available. The Pink Survivor stories remind us just how unique each cancer journey is. Yet, the women who share their journeys are united in faith, hope and strength. Ronda lives by this Bible passage from Matthew 20:28 – “For even the son of man came not to be served but to serve others and give his life as a ransom for many.” She is Living to Serve!
Kristen Johnston

Kristen Johnston

Kristen is proof that the symptoms of breast cancer are not always the same. She experienced an unusual and persistent ache in her breast for four days, which prompted her to call her OB/GYN. Read More...

She had just had an annual office visit two weeks earlier. Her medical team recommended a mammogram. The test led to the discovery of a small breast tumor and multiple tumors in her lymph nodes. It was Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. Kristen remembers clearly the moment she decided she was NOT going to just give up. She says, “After 24 hours of crying and bargaining with God, I had to look directly at my biggest fear and decide that I would follow God’s plan for me regardless of where it lead, trusting that He would care for my family and me. When I did that, I could accept peace within myself and was able to focus on the steps to getting better.” Kristen calls her husband her biggest fan, but during this time he also acted as best friend, counselor, chauffer, cook and nurse’s aid. She says he, “changed my dressings so I wouldn’t have to look at them, rubbed my ankles for 20 minutes straight when they twitched with pain during the Benadryl portion of each chemo treatment, wore a walkie- talkie so I could get him at the push of a single button, and put up with my wise cracks through it all.” Kristen also says that during her year of treatment and recovery she learned how to slow down…even appreciating the time just lying in the comfort of her bed thinking about fond memories and planning new ones. A friend told her, “You are truly learning what ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ is all about.” It was completely true. Another important lesson this survivor wants to share is about pain relief. If you have persistent aches due to surgery scars, she encourages you to consider myofascial release therapy – a type of massage by a therapist who has done additional training and is certified in this specialty area. She says, “I lived with a small but annoying ache in my left armpit for seven years before discovering this therapy. I was pain-free after two sessions.” Kristen’s father, Richard not only helped after her surgery in 2008, but he also walked this path for 19 years with her mother, Sandy McClain, before she lost her battle to Stage IV breast cancer in 2006. He now walks this journey with his daughter.
Stacey Wells

Stacey Wells

This young survivor and fighter found a lump herself when she had an irritating itch that wouldn’t go away. The next day she called her gynecologist and made an appointment. Read More...

Her doctor ordered an ultrasound and determined they also needed to do a biopsy. The biopsy results were positive for Breast Cancer. Stacey was just 27-years-old at the time. The good news, they caught it early…Stage 1. She had a lumpectomy, followed by chemo and radiation. She also just completed year 1 of 5 on tamoxifen. Stacey also opted fertility preservation therapy. Cancer can strengthen relationships and damage others. While her marriage did not survive, she did…and she still imagines a future as a mom. Looking back, she remembers as strands of hair started to fall due to chemo she decided to take matters into her own hands. She cut the rest off. She says, “My immediate family came over to my home and we made an event out of it. My brother cut a mohawk and then my dad finished the job. My mom took pictures so I could post the transformation on my caring bridge site. Toward the end of the hair cut, I had a moment of “reality.” There was no going back and I needed to accept that. Stacey’s mom went with her to most of her appointments and treatments. Her dad joined when he could and reminded her that `this too shall pass’. Like many younger people, she thought something like this could never happen to her. Cancer wasn’t even close to being on the list of possibilities. She says, “My journey has taught me to live life to the fullest, to not take any day for granted, and to tell those who are closest to me “I Love You” often.”

Patty Kuhn

Patty's routine mammogram detected a tumor in her breast when she was 42. I had Stage I-II Triple Negative Infiltrating Ductile Carcinoma, which was so deep that it couldn’t be detected during a regular physical examination.
After a lumpectomy, chemotherapy treatments and radiation therapy, I beat breast cancer! However, in 2015, I discovered that I am BRCA1 positive and recently chose to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. I feel great about my decisions and am gaining a new outlook on the rest of my life. Initially, I found myself being the cheerleader – assuring everyone else that I was going to be just fine. Eventually, they recognized that I was not going to let cancer stop me. I even remember taking a family photo with me into the operating room. I pulled it out of the pocket on my surgical gown before the procedure, showed it to the doctor and nurses and said, This is why I need to live. There’s not enough time to describe all the positive things that came from my breast cancer experience. I discovered incredible strength, confidence and faith. I learned not to sweat the small stuff, but better appreciate simplicity and the ones we love. I was incredibly blessed to survive and I feel that it is now my responsibility to help others in their cancer journey.

Kim LeHew

Kim was on vacation – putting on suntan lotion – when she found the lump – which was higher than what she considered her breast area. At 2 centimeters, it couldn’t be felt when she had her arm at her side, but as soon as she lifted it – there it was! Read More...
A mammogram confirmed her fear. The official diagnosis was Triple Negative Breast Cancer–an aggressive form of the disease with the BARD1 mutation. It’s similar to BRCA, but it’s a genetic mutation that was recently discovered in 2013. Luckily, it was Stage 1 and had not spread to Kim’s lymph nodes or elsewhere. It meant that she had to be aggressive with therapy up front, since typical maintenance hormonal therapy will not work. Kim had a lumpectomy a month after her diagnosis, then had her gallbladder removed. Chemo started the following May. While she lost all of her hair, Kim is grateful she never got sick. Fatigue, however, is a reality. So she enjoyed the one-month break following 16 rounds of chemo before starting 35 rounds of radiation. She was excited to be done by Christmas! Kim surprised herself at how strong and positive she was – even with pretty devastating news, a “bad” memory was going online and looking at the unofficial prognosis about how terrible a Triple Negative diagnosis is. Deb says, “DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ!!!” Her “best” memory is the POWER OF PINK – Race for the Cure and the overwhelming Survivors and Supporters known as Kim’s Kommando’s. Her Peoria race team was 82 members strong. Friends and Family also did a Meal Train and showered her with words of encouragement and inspiring gifts. Her husband, daughter and dad gave her hugs and help like never before. Her work team at Cullinan Properties supported her as she continued to work full-time throughout treatment. Kim said, “Those I viewed as more casual acquaintances have reached out and lifted me up. Kim encourages everyone to do the same. A seemingly simple act of kindness can mean the world to someone who is battling cancer! Kim finds inspiration from her mom who was a 30-year survivor and her boss, Diane Cullinan-Oberhelman–a 20-year survivor. She says both are the most positive women she has ever known and true fighters. Kim’s final thought is–Live Life to the Fullest, Plan for the Future!! And wear lots of wigs!

Debbie Meyer

Deb is a wife and mother and is a 14-year breast cancer survivor. She discovered her own cancer during a monthly self-exam just three months after a seemingly clear annual mammogram. Read More...
Doctors diagnosed Deb with invasive ductile carcinoma. She followed up a lumpectomy with chemotherapy and radiation. Just 39 at the time of her original diagnosis, Deb celebrated when the cancer went into remission and her hair grew back. Her cancer was stubborn–returning four years later and metastasizing to her spine. She had to go through chemo and radiation all over again and continues a courageous fight with the disease today–hoping and praying for a cure one day. Along the way, she credits her friends and family with being her support system; keeping her positive and upbeat, sitting with her in the hospital, bringing meals to her family, taking her kids where they need to go, doing yard work and house work when needed, and most important of all–providing lots of prayer! Deb credits her cancer journey with allowing her to find a new focus as a physical therapist. She became extremely interested in obtaining my certification in lymphedema therapy and bringing the STAR cancer rehabilitation program to the Peoria area. She feels she has been blessed through this journey because she is able to better listen to the needs of her clients and truthfully let them know that she understands. Deb’s final thought for everyone is to remember that mammograms and monthly self-exams are EQUALLY important for early detection of the disease.